Making music together, 'Lifers' MercyMe are headed to OKC
Sitting around talking a few years ago, members of MercyMe realized that they would mark 25 years of making music together in 2019.
Band member Nathan Cochran said that conversation prompted them to refer to themselves as "lifers."
It was also fueled by the realization that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives sharing the gospel-inspired music they're known for.
Cochran said it had a certain ring to it -- so much so that the contemporary Christian band made "Lifers" the title of their most recent album.
MercyMe will perform songs from that Grammy-nominated album and others from the band's lengthy lists of hits in a concert set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Crowder and Micah Tyler will be special guests on the contemporary Christian band's "Imagine Nation Tour."
The popular band has had quite the year, perhaps since the release of the movie "I Can Only Imagine" in March 2018. Portions of the film were shot in Oklahoma, no surprise since the band had connections to the state. MercyMe was formed in 1994 at Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, where band member Jim Bryson's father was a pastor. MercyMe led worship at First Baptist Church in Moore for awhile, plus they did a weekly Bible study at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. They moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to seek a record deal after about three years in Edmond.
In June 2018 -- in a nod to the band's link to Oklahoma -- MercyMe signed legislation naming its hit song "I Can Only Imagine" the state inspirational song.
MercyMe band consists of Bart Millard, Nathan Cochran, Robby Shaffer, Michael Scheuchzer and Barry Graul. In a recent telephone interview, Cochran the band's bassist, took time to discuss the tour, a recent Grammy nomination and some of the songs that have resonated with fans.
Q: How is the tour going so far?
A: It's going great. We had a good amount of time to prep for this tour. We took some time off last year to get ready for everything. I always joke around and say it's a little bit like going to summer camp. You get to go hang out with your friends for a period of time -- summer camp for adults.
Q: What can Oklahoma City fans expect from the "Imagine Nation" concert?
A: We are leaning pretty heavily on our last two albums "Welcome to the New (2014)" and "Lifer (2017)." We're certainly going to play some of the older stuff that people want to hear. We're kind of in a unique place where we've been doing this long enough that it's getting a little difficult to come up with a set list to make everybody happy. We're remembering that people are paying a ticket price so we're going to try to put on the best performance we can and at the same time, be honest about why we do what we do. What we have to say is important to us so we want people to know that.
Q: You all have been doing this for a while so you probably can't do everything, right?
A: It would be like a four or five hour show if we did that!
Q: MercyMe has enjoyed success in a variety of platforms in recent years. You had the movie "I Can Only Imagine" come out in March 2018 and it did well at the box office. It was also nominated for a People's Choice Award for "Family Movie of 2018," among other things. Your song "Grace Got You" was nominated for a Grammy in 2018. What has this success meant for the band?
A: You know what, we're just kind of rolling with the punches. It keeps us busy for sure. There's always something going on. Doing things like going to the Grammys, it's an honor to be included in the wider community of artists making music and at the same time be recognized for our efforts. The movie coming out was kind of a whirlwind for us last year. It certainly kept us busy. We were real proud of the movie and the way it turned out. Telling the story of Bart's relationship with his dad, doing that right and doing it well, was very, very important to us.
Q: I heard that the movie also helped introduce MercyMe and it's music to a whole new generation of fans. Is that something you have thought of?
A: Yes, I think so. There are some folks who have kept up with us, but the movie coming out kind of reminded them "Hey, let's go see what those guys are up to." It's been great -- some new audiences and some old hardcore fans of ours are with us so it's cool.
Q: In October 2018, MercyMe went to Washington, D.C., to witness the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Gooodlatte Music Modernization Act being signed into law. (Generally, the law is expected to bring reform to the way songwriters and musicians are compensated in the digital era. It enjoyed bipartisan support and was praised by a wide variety of musicians) What was that like?
A: We got a call that they were looking for artists to be present for the Music Modernization Act being signed into law and we just happened to be available so we flew up and stood on the wings and watched the signing. It was a unique experience to be able to watch a bill be signed into law so that was pretty cool. In a larger picture, too, it's a great thing for all artists. For creative people, the art we make is the living we make.
Q: Let's talk about music. What was the premise behind the album "Lifer"?
A: The record came out a year ago. In 2019, MercyMe will have been around for 25 years. We were kind of joking saying that we've been doing this long enough that we're in it for life. We're not going to do anything else at this point so that was kind of the catalyst for kicking the whole thing off. But the bigger thought behind it was our relationship with Christ. There's our realization that what the blood of Christ has done for us has actually made a real change in our lives and we will spend the rest of our lives talking about that. It's not just some passing fad that we do just because we have a platform. It's what informs all of our lives. It's what informs our worldview and we're going to spend the rest of our lives talking about it.
Q: Along those lines, why do you think your song "Grace Got You" resonated with people? The song was recently nominated for a Grammy.
A: I think musically, it was a little bit different for us from things we've done in the past. I think people thought it was a little fresh for us. At the same time, the whole record "Lifer" is kind of a follow up to our previous record "Welcome to the New." The things we're talking about are fairly similar and so "Grace Got You" is kind of a celebration of the things we talked about in "Welcome to the New." I think people were just appreciative that we were coming out with a song and that we being honest again about what we were talking about and didn't come out with a really sad ballad. It was something that people can maybe roll down their windows and listen to while they're driving down the road. And for the first time ever we had somebody rap on a MercyMe song.
Q: Speaking of ballads, the song "Even If" also resonated with fans. Would you say that song was more true to the MercyMe sound?
A: I would say it's a little bit more true to form but I don't want that to sound like we planned for that to happen. "Even If" is certainly a song that wouldn't have been written or come about had we not been struggling with some things on our own. That's the best way to put it. Those songs don't come about as a formula for us. "Even If" came about basically from some struggles that some members of our families were having. Bart's oldest son Sam is a Type 1 diabetic and there were frustrations with all of that. So it came about from some real struggles. Again, I think people, at the very least, appreciate that we're trying to be honest about what we're going through.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: We have been kind of teasing that we are in the beginning stages of working on a new record already. We're kind of in that head space. It's a little difficult to work on while on tour but we're moving forward, hoping for some new stuff pretty quick. It's exciting.